Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Living in Greece Part 08

Friday, 10 September

It seems to me Americans do not appreciate the pleasant, even delightful side of living at close quarters with other people. I suppose our attitude is a legacy of the frontier days, when people moved west to escape laws and taxes and noise and interference. In the wilderness there was no government; people were allowed to do exactly as they pleased. And ever since then, I’m hypothesizing, Americans have thought of being alone as a form of freedom. If you have 10 acres in the middle of nowhere, you do not have to consult your neighbor about building a fence or cutting down a tree. And the nearer your neighbors are, the more you have to accommodate them, as for instance here in our building, where by mutual consent, we keep quiet every day from 2 – 5 p.m. because that is nap time.

But people who think solitary means free are missing so much, namely, each other! It’s the people who are the life of a place, and sharing their lives is most of the charm of any place.

In this building, Thomai and Zisis know if we are in residence, because they are directly below and can hear our footsteps. (I don’t know why, as we’ve never head anything from above us.) And we know when they’re home because Thomai has a loud voice. If spouses quarrel, we hear it all; if a wife storms out, we see it from our balcony. And we know when she is back home by the fact that her laundry has been taken off the line. And sometimes when spouses people are amorous, we hear that, too, as last year when I thought our neighbor was having a heart attack and only realized she wasn’t about 30 seconds before I was going to knock on her door.

It’s life! Genuine life, with all its beauty and all its warts. It’s people, sometimes sublime, sometimes weak. It’s the ultimate reality show, every person’s drama interwoven with every other’s. It’s almost a tribal life; or as Demetrios puts it, it’s as though we were all one, big family in the whole city – and one extended family in the whole country. Everybody belongs to you, and you belong to them. Their problems are your concern, and yours are their concern. Your joys are part of the neighborhood’s fabric. You follow each person’s progress through life with interest and all good hopes and wishes. It’s like following a set of blogs, except you don’t need the blog because you see and hear it all firsthand, happening in the flesh. That’s exactly what Americans don’t like, isn’t it, everybody more ore less knowing everybody else’s business. But why not? We have nothing to hide. Most people have nothing to hide, or if they do, they still can.  How can you say you want to be one with all people, yet don't want to live too near them???

One communal matter in this building is that we must arrange for our elevator to be updated to conform to the standards of the European Union. Oh, it will still be the same size, still only big enough for 3 people, provided they are all good friends, or one person and two suitcases. But it will be computerized. And I hope its appearance will be improved.

There has been some talk, by the proposed contractor, of doing it under the table to avoid taxes. Demetrios’ opinion, though, seems to have prevailed. He said we should all pay our taxes and if the contractor doesn’t want to pay his or report ours, that will be his problem, but he must give us each a receipt to show we paid ours. Thomai agreed, saying you never know, in such a situation, who might tell, and we’d all be in trouble. Her husband, Zisis, seems to be going along with that, our building’s fearless leader.

Well, the only thing he does fear, and very much, is trouble from Christos over this, as over several issues in the past. (Christos owns the flat across from us.) Well, the issues in the past had similar complications, so Christos had a point, didn’t he? As in the days when we had a communal furnace and Christos measured the oil in the tank as soon as it had been delivered and alleged the oil company was delivering less than we were paying for and accused Zisis of taking a kickback. This time, Demetrios has had to tell Zisis repeatedly not to worry, that he would take the responsibility of sorting it all out with Christos.

Today we went to the open-air market held near us on Fridays. Along with the fruits and veggies and fish, I bought a small dog whistle. I plan to use it with doves. There aren’t any doves coming to our balcony this year as they did in the past, sometimes even wandering into our kitchen. We miss them! So I plan to sit in the park below our balcony and whenever I see a dove, I’ll toss it some food, blowing the little pipe a certain way each time. Once the doves have learned to associate the sound with the food, then I will start doing the same thing from the balcony and see if they learn to come there for food when called. I’ll let you know how and if it works.


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